This is what our child’s medical travel supplies look like. It’s a bit different from that ONE time I checked the baby Tylenol and had to pay ten million dollars for a bottle in the Cleveland airport to relieve a mid-travel fever.

I thought it might be interesting to share a visual of living with food and environmental allergies, and asthma.


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Wedding Joke

Our wedding started as a joke. Not the idea to be married. But the wedding itself.

“What if we got married at Christmas?”

And it worked out that way. Well, really, it worked out a couple days before. In some ways, the joke is on us. We commonly spend the day traveling. Or it is mushed up in the flurry of the holidays, and multiple other forth quarter family celebrations.

Here we are last year, opening our Christmaversary gifts:


A few days ago we remembered we forgot to plan something for today.

But because of its placement, today always feels special. The solstice has passed. It’s The Swedelock’s first day of vacation. There are plenty of cookies around. We have our first-ever tree bedecked because we will be home for Christmas. I’m cozy in my kerchief. And he in his sweatpants.

Kerchiefs and sweatpants sounds like an anniversary joke. I assure you, because we are together, it’s seriously special.

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Bad Santa

In these parts, the Santas are real. Real beards. Real glimmer in their eyes. Real patience with kids excitedly mumbling the gobbledygook of their personal toymagination.

This is the first year The Child is not skeptical about that dude in a red suit. We’ve visited him a few times in the past few weeks, mostly at our closest mall.

There is a sentence I can’t believe I typed.

The Child has been happy to share his list with this year’s Santa: A replacement for his lost train engine, Gator. The Child is not used to things going missing. Gator has been much on his mind. He wants to tell Santa the places he’s looked. He shares theories about where Gator might have gone missing. He recalls where it was purchased, and by whom. Santa can’t possibly understand what this boy in purple leggings is babbling about. But he nods, asks questions, and eventually I offer a gentle interpretation.

You know, so Santa gets it right.

Last week we went back to repeat our ritual, and this time Santa asked some different questions. 

“Oh, well. What about an engine you’ve never had before? Like James. Do you have James?”

The Child responded,  “No. I don’t. But I pretend sometimes a different red thing is James.”

Proper response from Santa: “Oh my. It’s great using your imagination!”

Actual response from Santa: “Well, what about a James engine for Christmas? Do you think you’d like a James?”

The Child said, “Well, my bus is also red.”

Santa said, “Oh, and a new James is red too, right?”


In the actual.

HELL, Santa?

Does this guy get kickbacks from Fisher-Price? Is he bored? Is he pulling a full-on Billy Bob Thornton, and showing up drunk for mall duty?

Well, NOW when the grandparents Skype to ask him what he wants from Santa, the young boy’s story has changed. NOW APPARENTLY HE NEEDS TWO JAMES ENGINES TO HOOK TOGETHER. There is no mention of Gator. Which is the toy that’s already wrapped in Santa paper.

This is why we are greedy, America. We let strange men in red suits speak to our children about toys. Don’t be surprised when my kid shows up to kindergarten telling your kid that dude is a LIE perpetuated by Hallmark. He’s a guy named Willy who rips off department stores.

Thanks, Willy. Thanks a lot.

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Preschooler Politics

I was on a step ladder, re-packing our storage closet, and I asked The Child for some help.

“Hey, sweet pea! Can you come hand that backpack to me?”

“Momma, I have to do the train thing now.”

“Can you please come quick and hand me that backpack, and then play the train thing?”

“I don’t want to help you right now.”

“Hm. Well, what would happen if I didn’t help you when you asked for it?”

“Oh, well, then I’d do it myself.”

“You weren’t such a Libertarian five minutes ago when you were hollering for me to wipe your butt.”

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I’d Like To Be Where Other People Are Not

I said this once. To people. Potential new friends, and a few existing good ones. I don’t know if anyone took offense. But one person in particular was so impressed with me that we spent years of our lives together after that. I suspect this one late-night announcement wasn’t the entire foundation of our relationship. But we aren’t together any more, so it very well could have been.

I’m positive  The Child can identify with this sentiment. Today we met up with a nice crowd of our play group at an open gym. I was having myself a fine time. But the littlest ‘ski was having none of it.


The crescendo of emotion was disruptive enough that we went outside the gym to chill.

We took some deep breaths, and tried reframing his airing of grievances. “He went first down the mat when I wanted to be first,” eventually became an authoritative, “Well then I will make the choice to PLAY with him or NOT play with him if he goes first all the time!”

I gave him the chance to go back inside to his friends.

He said, “That’s okay. Let’s go.”

I get it, son. You’ve always been this way. In the days you could only turn your head, you would turn away from circle time. Then you’d start to crawl, or move to nurse when it was time to transition from free play to organized play. But your friends and their parents notice that you’re greeting people now. And we all noticed a couple weeks ago when you invited two play group friends into the hot tub. You’re getting there.

While we made our exit, The Child suggested we go to a certain park. I had low expectations of success, but we were close enough to give it a try. When we got there, not surprisingly, the park was empty. He suggested we wait in the car for others to arrive. I explained that today is cold and windy. Five inches of snow are predicted to arrive tomorrow, and today might be the last time to come to this park all winter.

We got out of the car, and had fun, alone. We even laughed.


I know that one day he will understand both these desires: being around others and being alone. I hope that I he can continue to articulate these needs. The tough part right now is showing him what it takes to be around others. That’s probably the tough part for most of us, at any age. Especially for those of us who can say we would rather be where other people are not.

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Sixty Revenge Seconds

Let me tell you the kind of person I would like to be. The person I know I could be.

Once on a work trip, our boarded airplane was held at the gate for some ungodly amount of time. By this, I probably mean 40 urban minutes. Which is two to three hours in Grand Rapids time. One passenger was furiously texting or gaming or something-ing on her phone, which caused periodic and loud ding dings. I noticed it instantly because I pride myself on being an amazing crowd member. It’s a role I was born to play; I could see live theater as a preschooler.

I also noticed it instantly because I hate dinging. I silence all microwaves, keyboards, and machines before doing anything else with them. If we ever have to replace our washer and dryer, the first thing I’ll research–after efficiency ratings–is if it makes any beeps, and whether or not I can shut them the hell up.

After about fifteen minutes of this woman’s phone invasion, and many tsks of surrounding passengers, another woman on the plane asked, “Does anyone hear that? Is there a problem? What is that sound?”

I replied loudly to her, “That is the sound of someone who was not raised to be aware of others.”

But if she wasn’t hearing the dinging, she wasn’t hearing my passive aggressive nonsense.

So the woman sitting in front of the offender turned and asked in this level, collaborative way, “Excuse me, would you mind silencing your phone?”

She said it so sincerely, as if she did not hate this other passenger, and all that she represented about the decline of humanity. And the offender sweetly apologized, and silenced her phone. This woman was a normal human being who just got clueless. Maybe she has been awake for days traveling. Or maybe she was texting her sister because she was on her way to their father’s funeral.


I said to the lovely savior of us all, “Thank you. That was…what I should have done.”

That’s the woman I want to be.

But today, years after that airplane delay, I failed again. After an award-winning morning of gracefully dealing with a severely emotional preschooler, I was standing in a check out line. My post to Facebook in this moment?

Putting your grocery cart up my ass does not make any more of this conveyor belt appear for me to put my groceries on.

Remember how I hate beeps? Do you know what I hate more? Ineffiency. It’s my downfall. But also makes me an amazing superhero. So, here in the store, despite my torn jeans, and my chatty young child, I was showing no signs of incompetency or inefficiency. There was, in short, no reason to be up my ass.

Let me be more clear: this wasn’t just absent-minded boundary-infringement, or someone with a different understanding of personal space. This person was running a one-woman recreation of “The Amazing Race.”

I knew anything I would say to this woman would be New York City nice. Which is kicked-out-by-security offensive in Grand Rapids. So I took deep breaths, and tried to be that one woman on the plane.

But. I just couldn’t.

I could, however, pause to ask a few questions about how the store credit card works. And feign confusion. And ask one of my favorite checkout guys if he was working the weekend. He’s always so kind, that guy. I’m always both confused and pleased when he asked after The Child, when I’m alone. It was nice to spend an extra 60 revenge seconds chatting with him.

Maybe some day I’ll soar high. Until then, I’m counting the seconds.

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Part of the Train to Venice

Last night at bedtime we flipped through the book Trains: An Illustrated History From Steam Locomotives to High-Speed Rail.  Once you’ve looked at the 300-some pages of photos and drawings 300-some times, you begin to dig deep for entertainment. For yourself. The Child finds the bulldog nosed engines as fascinating as when he first saw them.

During the Italian high speed train pages, I mentioned to our little train enthusiast that I’d been on trains like that in Italy. Sadly, he is no longer impressed when one of us mentions specific train rides; he has had several of his own museum and commuter train experiences in the last couple years.

You tell him you used to ride the train past famous national monuments every day, and he thinks, “Anyway, I was on a REAL STEAM TRAIN LAST MONTH!”

When he failed to acknowledge the privilege and majesty of my Italian train hopping, I took the story up a notch.

“When I was on a train in Italy, I accidentally went to a wrong city.”

He looked at me. Ah, I’d hooked him.

“Ya,” I continued, all breezy and continental, “I got on a train. When we got to our final destination, I looked out the window and said, ‘What? Where? Wheeeere?!?’ I was in the wrong city. I was accidentally in Milan.”

This was, to a four-year-old train-obsessed child, the most mind-bending conceivable plot twist. This was somehow less believable than monsters attending a university.

“During the train ride, the train split into two separate trains. But I didn’t know it.”

Well, that was it. I’d told him the story of the century. He just couldn’t believe it. He was so excited he bolted out of bed to tell The Swedelock that momma had “accidentally slept for too long on a train and it uncoupled, and she didn’t know it, and SHE WENT TO THE WRONG CITY!”

And, really, it wasn’t even a story. I hadn’t told him where I was coming from (serious hijinks with three girlfriends, who’d gone on to the Pink Palace). I didn’t tell him about my attempts to put Italian sounding endings on French words in order to find my way to my real destination: a convent in Venice. There was no arc, or art to the thing. But it was a best thing.

In my scrap book I’d marked my Italian trip, including Milan’s train station with a “!?!”


Today he took an accidental nap in the car. When we arrived at our destination, I sat with the engine running, to give him (myself) a chance to rest (flip through Facebook).

Before his eyes popped open, he woke up laughing, “I don’t know why momma got on the wrong part of the train and went to the wrong city!”

So that’s the story. I’m the clown, and not the world adventurer. The one who doesn’t know how trains work. And, really isn’t that the same thing I said about it!?!

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